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Tattoos and Piercings – a problem during EMS training?

Skeletal musculature

Body modifications in the form of tattoos and piercings are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the fitness scene.

Therefore we want to deal with the interactions between tattoos, piercings and our EMS system today.


As already explained in other articles, the propagation of the stimulation current in the body is based both on the placement of the electrodes and on the resistance of the underlying body material.

The skin resistance of the upper skin layers plays a major role and is one of the main reasons for the short pulse lengths of an EMS stimulation signal.

Parts of the tissue that have low resistances attract the current flow. Areas of the body with high resistance, such as the muscle fibres themselves, are rather insensitive to the current flow.

Therefore, interactions between body-mods and EMS training are always based on their electrical properties, which we will analyze in the following.


The electrical properties of tattoos depend massively on the specific ink used – inks containing metal can lead to electrically conductive tattoos that react to both magnetic fields and the flow of current[1].

It is not possible to make a general statement about all possible tattoos, especially if modern ideas such as intentionally electrical tattoos are taken into account as wearables.

Due to the planarity of tattoos and the low power of the EMS stimulation, no harmful heating of the tattoos can be assumed, but a changed skin resistance can lead to a more intensive sensation of the stimulation.
Tattoos under the electrodes are no obstacle to EMS training, as many of our trainers and trainees proved in self-experiments – but they should be considered when setting training intensities[2].

Of course, training is not recommended in case of non-healed tattoos due to the risk of infection through sweat and friction.


With piercings the situation is somewhat different. They are mostly metallic and therefore very good electrical conductors, on top of that, they are much more local than tattoos. Although only a few classical piercings are directly on muscles, and therefore under electrodes of our suit, such a case cannot be excluded completely.

If a piercing should lie under an electrode, a stimulation over it is to be omitted. This is because piercings can completely bridge the skin resistance, as they pierce the skin layers. So the skin resistance is overcome locally and a big part of the current of the electrode will flow via the piercing directly into the surrounding tissue.

Therefore a homogeneous stimulation is impossible, furthermore irritations around the piercing and even a heating of the piercing cannot be excluded. Removing the piercing solves this problem only conditionally – the hole left in the skin can still lead to an increased current flow. At pierced body parts no EMS-training should be carried out.


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